|General Ulysses S.
By George C. Dietrich.
ON the grounds of the
State Agricultural Society at Ohio's capital there stands a
building which is an object of interest to visitors. It
is a frame building of two small rooms - an upper and a lower
story - with a large stone chimney on the outside, all encased
in a glass building, that it may be seen but that its walls
may not be defaced and despoiled by the souvenir seeker.
This humble cabin was the first home of a great
American. In this house on the banks of the Ohio River
at Point Pleasant, Clermont County, Ulysses Grant was born on
the 27th of April 1882.
His father, Jesse Grant, was an immigrant from
Pennsylvania; his grandfather and great grandfather had served
as soldiers in the Colonial and Revolutionary Wars, from
Connecticut. From these, Ulysses, or "Lis" as he was
familiarly known when a boy, inherited a vigor and hardihood
of strength, a martial spirit, and an intense loyalty to
His mother's maiden name was Simpson and later in life
he was known as Ulysses Simpson Grant, though he was first
named Ulysses Hiram. That he, the oldest son, was named
Ulysses by his mother's sister, who at the time was reading of
this Greek hero, indicates that his mother's family also were
admirers of martial life. The parents of the boy, in his
early life, were often joked in regard to his name, and by
some persons he was given the undeserved name of "Useless
Grant." There was one, his mother, who was certain that
the boy's future career would not justify this sobriquet.
From his mother, young Ulysses inherited steadiness of
purpose, patience and equability of temper, as well as that
reticence which gave him the title of "The Silent Man."
The greater part of Grant's boyhood was spent in
Georgetown, Brown County, Ohio, and there, to this day, is
standing a substantial brick building which was erected by his
father, who was one of the prosperous citizens of this staid
old town. His father's business of tanning prospered in
Georgetown, because of the abundance of bark furnished by the
oak forests in that vicinity. The boy Ulysses disliked
his father's trade, but greatly enjoyed working in the woods,
on the farm, or any place where he might be near horses, for
these he loved greatly. When only eight years of age he
had charge of a team and his horses were always fat and sleek.
Young Grant was not a brilliant pupil in school, though
in mathematics he had little or no difficulty. He was
glad to make use of the limited advantages offered by the
schools in that day, and was regular in attendance. That
his opportunity for securing an education might be improved,
he was sent across the river to Maysville, Kentucky, to school
for several months. He did good work in this school, and
was an active member of the school's literary society.
His life was not unlike the lives of other boys in his
community, with whom he associated. His companions were
of the crowd that did not use tobacco or liquor, and his best
friends were often boys older than himself. He was
considered good company because he was a good listener.
He avoided all prominence, and this made him a general
favorite with all who knew him. His father and mother
relied much upon his ability to take care of himself.
When quite young he made long overland trips on matters of
business for his father. So when, at the age of
seventeen, an opportunity was offered the boy of entering the
military school at West Point, his parents were glade of his
chance to equip himself for a military life, and were
confident that he would be able to take care of himself.
He spent the next four years in this school, winning
few honors in classes, but laying the foundation for the
illustrious career that awaited him. The routine of the
life at West Point was not altogether pleasing to a fresh
young Westerner. The difficult lessons, the continual
drill in tactics, the sentry duty, the subjection to higher
classmen, and the disagreeable tasks they imposed, no doubt
seemed annoying to young Grant, but all these were
contributing to his development into one of the world's
His West Point career ended, having ranked only an
average student, he was glad of the change to garrison duty.
In this work, two or three years were now spent near St.
Louis, and at this time he met Miss Julia Dent, whom he
In 1884, the Mexican War presented the first
opportunity to him of entering active military service.
For meritorious conduct in the campaigns on the Rio Grande and
around Mexico City he was advanced to the rank of first
lieutenant and was twice breveted. His part in these
campaigns proved a valuable experience for him, since he
served under General Taylor, who was noted for his easy and
free regulations, and also under General Scott who was
distinguished for his severe discipline. Later as a
great general, Grant seemed to strike a happy medium between
these diametrically opposed plans of organization.
After the close of the Mexican War, Grant was ordered
to garrison duty with his regiment on the Pacific coast.
Fresh laurels came to him for successfully engineering the
transportation of his regiment across the Isthmus of Panama,
when success seemed almost impossible. He remained in
the army until 1854, when his dissatisfaction increasing with
the routine of garrison duty and when with the constant
separation of himself from his family, he resigned and
returned to Missouri. Here as a civilian he tried for
six years to succeed, but as a farmer, as a real estate agent,
as a clerk he was hardly able to support his family.
This was the darkest period in the life of Grant, yet his
associations with both Northern and Southern people, his being
brought face to face with civilian duties, his being forced to
battle against poverty, all were contributing to developing
those traits that were needed for his future career.
At the beginning of the great struggle over slavery,
his sympathies were all with the North. Because of aid
rendered Governor Yates of Illinois, in which State he now
resided, in mustering this State's quota of soldiers, and
because of his regular army experience, he was commissioned as
Colonel of the Twenty-first regiment of Illinois volunteers.
It is interesting to note that an appointment as Colonel of
the Twelfth regiment of Ohio volunteers came a few days too
late for acceptance. In the same year, without his
knowledge or solicitation, Grant was appointed a Brigadier
General by President Lincoln. Busy days were now before
him. He came before the eyes of the whole people because
of his successful campaign in Missouri, and also because of
his capture of Fort Donelson. He success in these
campaigns assisted greatly in restraining some of the border
States from joining the Confederacy. It was at Fort
Donelson, in reply to a request for terms of surrender from
Gen. Buckner, that he used the following famous words.
"No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be
accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your
His next great battle was that of Shiloh Church.
The Confederate army perpetrated a surprise on the Union army,
and for a time conditions seemed very discouraging, but
Grant's coolness, perfect control, courage and well-directed
plans changed what bade fair to be a sad defeat into one of
the greatest victories of the war.
On July 4th, 1863, Grant brought joy to the Northern
people, and dismay to the Southern, for on this day, he
received the capitulation of the stragetic point, Vicksburg,,
which had been besieged for many months, and the surrender of
more than thirty-two thousand soldiers. His successful
campaigns in the West were revealing to the authorities that
Grant was the man of destiny, who might bring the war to a
close. Ten days after the great victory which was won
under his leadership at Chattanooga, a bill was introduced in
Congress establishing the rank of lieutenant general.
This bill passed almost unanimously for it was known that the
President was to appoint Grant to this grade. Prior to
this Washington alone had borne the rank, but Grant was now
placed in command of any army ten times as large as hand ever
been under Washington. With the finest army the world
has ever seen at his services he set about to crush the
rebellion by breaking its military power. He entrusted
to his strong friend, and very great Ohio general, W. T.
Sherman, the task of destroying the rebel army under J. E.
Johnson. He himself was to threaten, worry, confuse,
defeat and destroy Lee's army, or bring it to a condition of
surrender. It is only true to Grant's style of fighting
to say, that in the next few months he won only doubtful
victories, because of great loss of life, but he was
constantly on the offensive, and was gradually weakening and
destroying the rebel army. His principal battles were
the "Wilderness," "Spottsylvania," "North Anna," "Cold
Harbor," "Petersburg," and "Appomattox." Lee was forced
to surrender and Grant drew up the terms, "the officers and
men were paroled, and allowed to return to their homes, ***
and the men to retain their horses, and take them home to work
their little farms." No conquering general ever granted
such terms, expressing so much magnaminity, generosity and
The war was now practically at an end. Yet
Grant's countrymen would not permit the modest unobstrusive,
successful hero to retire from public view. At the very
next Presidential election, he was chosen to the chief
magistracy. Two administrations with many difficult
problems to solve, reveled the fact that he was as great in
peace as in war. His friends clamored for a third term,
but he gave it no encouragement.
After a trip around the world, upon which he was given
every honor, and was recognized as America's noblest and
ablest man, he returned to the land that he had done so much
to preserve as a great nation of the world. He located
in New York City, where he entered business. Here on
July 23d, 1885, after a long and painful illness, U. S. Grant
passed from earth. The last few months of his life saw
the completion of his memoirs, which will offer interesting
reading to every Ohio boy.